Ask almost any academic institution, from South University’s pharmacy program to the American Counseling Association, and you’ll hear the same thing: continuing education is important. That even rings true for chefs, and just because you’ve graduated culinary academy doesn’t mean that you’re done with learning. In fact, celebrity chef and author Myra Kornfeld once said that cooking is a lifelong journey, and you’ll continue to add recipes, pointers and new ideas to your personal cookbook. To aid you in that journey, here are four ways to continue your culinary education:
“Structure is important as you continue your culinary education.”
1. Consider advanced courses
If you have the time, the easiest way to learn more about cooking is simply to continue attending school. Depending on the culinary arts program you were enrolled in, the institute might offer a series of advanced courses. That could include knife techniques, ways to run an allergy-friendly kitchen or how to create sauces and stocks. By taking a class, you’re creating a certain structure for yourself, and that’s going to help you take away more from the sessions. You may also be able to audit a course, and that means you can attend classes as they fit your schedule. Finally, some places offer one-day classes or courses over a weekend, and these can be great for otherwise busy chefs.
2. Join a professional group
As with any job, the culinary world features a number of professional groups to join. That list includes the Food & Culinary Professionals, the Professional Chef’s Association, the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the American Culinary Federation, among many others. Whatever your choice, these are a great way to stay in the loop about trends in the cooking world, which is an important way of staying relevant. Some professional organizations may even offer special annual conferences or training courses. These groups are also perfect for meeting your fellow chefs, who will provide not only friendship but offer another kind of personal assistance.
3. Learn from your peers
Whether someone you’ve met in a professional group, or a fellow line chef at your restaurant, there are plenty of opportunities to learn skills from someone else. Sometimes, that could be a new skill you’ve yet to acquire, like broasting, indirect grilling or pressure frying. You may also want to bone up on an ability that’s gotten rusty from a lack of use. Or, maybe you want to watch someone else cook to see how they handle a pan or knife. Having access to this kind of resource can prove invaluable, and other chefs have plenty to offer if you’re willing to watch and listen. And just like in school, it’s always a good idea to jot down notes to study later.
“Always make time to cook for yourself.”
4. Cook for yourself
Some chefs will go home after the end of a 12-hour shift and get takeout. Others will cook breakfast or dinner for themselves. While rest and relaxation are vital to managing stress, cooking at home is the perfect way to keep learning and developing your skills. Personal cooking is a time for growth, to try new things without the pressure of hungry patrons or time constraints. If you make mistakes while whipping up some new recipe, you can take the time to learn what went wrong. If nothing else, cooking for your own enjoyment can remind you why you became a chef in the first place, and that’s often enough to provide motivation and keep you seeking out new knowledge.